Thursday, August 30, 2007

Halo 3 Goes Gold...

and it isn't even in stores yet. The third game in the Halo trilogy, which has already set records as the fastest preordered game in history, has exceeded one million presales in North America alone. We can expect more record breaking stats when the game is released worldwide beginning Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Rubik's Cube Table

No self-respecting retro 80's theme room could possibly be complete without a Rubik's Cube Table. This 16-inch cube, acrylic table is available for $600 at Jellio. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually function like the original toy, which would be really cool but I guess, also a bit frustrating.

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Schylling Associates Recalls Spinning Tops and Tin Pails

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass., announced a voluntary recall of Thomas and Friends, Curious George and Other Spinning Tops and Tin Pails.

The recalled tops and pails are primarily metal and have wooden handles. The tops are painted with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, or a circus scene. The pails are painted with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, or in a solid red or yellow color. Tops with plastic handles are not included in this recall.

The recalled items were sold at specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from July 2001 through July 2002. The tops were sold for about $13. The pails were sold for about $6.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Schylling to receive a refund or free replacement toy. For additional information, contact Schylling at (800) 767-8697 between 9 am and 5 pm ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

We've got several hotly anticipated games due in stores this week. Both Stranglehold and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, have been making headlines around the gaming community for months now so they are sure to be snatched up rather quickly at retail. Additionally, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is bound for a sales boogie and two beloved Japanese franchises, Gundam and Naruto, are back with new games. Finally, don't forget Carnival Games for the Wii, which I had a chance to test out and thoroughly enjoyed last week.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?/PC
Blue Dragon/Xbox360
Brunswick Pro Bowling/Wii, PS2, PSP
Carnival Games/Wii
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam/Xbox360, PS3
Garfield's Nightmare/DS
Guild Wars: Eye of the North/PC
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes/PSP
Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms/PC
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption/Wii
Metropolismania 2/PS2
Monster Hunter Freedom 2/PSP
MotoGP 07/Xbox360
NHRA: Countdown to the Championship/PSP
Stuntman Ignition/Xbox360, PS2
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08/Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PS2, PSP, DS
Wild ARMs 5/PS2

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bring the Carnival Home

Carnival Games for the Nintendo Wii allows you to bring all the fun and excitement of the carnival into your living room without the crowds and scary carnival folk.

Carnival Games is packed with more than 25 classic carnival, fair and amusement park games including Clown Splash, Ring Toss, Frog Leap, Shooting Gallery, Day at the Races, Hoops, and even a fortune telling Great Swami that is right out of the movie Big.

Thanks to the game's advanced engine and mechanics, all the physical action required of the player and in-game responses are incredibly life-like and true to the carnival experience. For example, in the Alley Ball (Skee-Ball) game, if you release the ball too lightly, it will gradually roll back down the alley to you and allow you to try again without loosing a ball. Players will even receive tickets and prizes as they play, which can be turned in for wearable rewards used to customize their in-game characters.

Look for this Wii exclusive in stores on Tuesday (August 28). If you are in the New York City area this Saturday (August 25), stop by Nintendo World in Rockefeller Center for the Carnival Games launch event.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One in Four Americans Read no Books Last Year

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released on Tuesday revealed that one in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year. Among this group of non-readers, nearly a third are men and a quarter women, they tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious. Women and seniors were found to be the most avid readers with religious works and popular fiction the top choices.

Among the respondents who said they had read books, the median figure was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger.

The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted from August 6 to 8 and involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Click here to read the full story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Week's Video Game Releases

Get ready for more exercises and skill tests designed to train your brain with Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day for the Nintendo DS. This follow-up to the brain-training series, is oriented for adults who want to improve their thinking skills and keep their brains active. Mac fans feeling left out of the Harry Potter fun finally get to join the club when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is released for Mac computers tomorrow. And finally, three classic 3D games receive a 2D makeover in the Battleship, Trouble, Perfection Collection for the PC.

Avencast: Rise of the Mage/PC
Battleship, Trouble, Perfection Collection/PC
Bioshock/PC, Xbox 360
Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day/DS
Brunswick Pro Bowling/ Wii, PS2, PSP
Dave Mirra BMX Challenge/Wi
Destination: Treasure Island/PC
Dragoneer's Aria/PSP
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/Mac
I SPY Fun House/DS
Jeanne D'Arc/PSP
MetropolisMania 2/PC
Panzer Killer/PC
Pet Luv Spa & Resort Tycoon/PC
The Settlers/DS
Tom Clancy's Ghost REcon Advanced Warfighter 2/PS3, PSP
Turn it Around/DS
Two Worlds/PC

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Focus on Common Sense

Good heavens, the mainstream media couldn't wait to jump all over the Mattel recall and scaring people with the notion that their children were at terrible risk from toys. It's not fear we need right now. It's common sense.

Dire predictions about the impact on the Holiday season and plastic saber rattling from outraged congressman Dick Durbin (R-Illinois) have created a lot of noise, but what's the substance here? Durbin's outrage stems from apparent ignorance. "We import toys from countries with different safety standards," he writes. Wrong. Wherever toys are produced, if they are to be sold in the U.S., they must meet U.S. safety standards. Furthermore, while Durbin is foaming at the mouth over the problems with China and the call for the CPSC to have the resources to do its job, he oversees the committee that has cut the agency's budgets for the past several years.

Much more believable is that the pro-business, anti-big-government stance of the Bush Administration has contributed to the reduction in government regulation. But, oops, when something happens the reaction is not to say, we've erred in under-funding the CPSC but that there is something wrong with China. Sorry, but that won't fly. You don't get to slash budgets and then divert blame. It makes soundbites that are good for a news cycle or two, but it's dishonest.

There are two recalls at issue.

The first involves lead paint. Lead paint has been banned since 1978, but according to Federal regulations, there are still acceptable levels of lead that can appear in paints and in other products. When that level is exceeded, it triggers a recall. That's a U.S. standard.

According to Mattel, and other sources, the non-conforming paint that was used applied to the toy in question by a sub-contractor's sub-contractor. The error was that the paint was not tested prior to being applied to the toys. However, the paint was found in the process of testing. The toys were recalled, and about 50% of them were contained before they made it to market. Could we not argue that, instead of failing, the system worked? Yes, it's a horrible and inexcusable thing that toys with lead paint made it into the market, but Mattel, which is said to have some of the best systems in the world for monitoring this kind of things did have a system failure. But the back-up systems found the non-conforming paint, and Mattel took action. Sure, there's damage done, but ultimately as bad as this is, consumers were protected.

Now, in and among all the lists of the dangers of lead paint, the reality is that exposure to lead is at an all-time low. While no level of lead paint is acceptable, understanding how lead can get into a child's system should quell some fears. First of all, lead cannot be transmitted into a system through touching it. Some would say even licking or mouthing it would not be sufficient. The paint needs to be ingested and metabolized for any toxic effect. Lead paint is not good, but the risk is lessened.

So what should parents do? Well, exert common sense first and foremost. There is no paint that children should be ingesting. If your toys are worn or broken, take them away. If the toys are on the CPSC Recall list, take them away and follow the directions.

We have heard from many parents that the RC2 Thomas the Tank recall has been handled very well. They are praising the company for being responsive.

Now, about magnets.

The CPSC has issued warnings about the dangers of magnets. They are to be taken seriously. However, it's important to note that with 9.5 million Polly Pocket dolls that have been recalled in the U.S., there have been no injuries. What's more, the injuries that do occur have been with kids who are too young to play with them, and with children who have been using magnets to simulate tongue piercings.

Mattel has addressed the design flaw, and any toy with a magnet manufactured from January 2007 forward will be much more secure.

But for parents, what can you do? First and foremost, monitor play. Do not allow kids who are 3 or younger to have toys that are not graded for them. It takes a second for an accident to happen, but it's important to be vigilant. We all know that kids can get into things so quickly it would make your head spin.

Ultimately, logic and rational thought dictate that Mattel and all toy companies are doing everything in their power to ensure toy safety. This is a bump in the road--and a serious one at that--but the result of increased control and oversight should yield even safer toys in the future. While it's hard to take the longer view where your kids and their safety are concerned, consider this: One of my father's favorite toys in the 1920s was a soldier making kit. It included a bunsen burner and a little pot in which he melted, yes, lead, and poured it into molds. No one knew it was a problem at the time.

Today, toys are safer than at any time in history. And companies are trying to make them safer. Let's not get carried away with the emotionalism and fear that something like the Mattel recall creates. Let's not be quick to blame China, but instead, let's look to our business practices and see how they can be improved. That is realistic progress that acknowledges the global market for toys.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mattel Recalls “Sarge” Die Cast Car And Expands Earlier Recall

Mattel Inc., of El Segundo, CA., in cooperation with The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced the voluntary recall of about 253,000 Cars “Sarge” die cast toy cars.

The recall involves die cast “Sarge” 2 ½ inch toy cars. The toy looks like a military jeep and measures about 2 ½ inches long by 1 inch high by 1 inch wide. The recalled toy has the markings “7EA” and “China” on the bottom. The “Sarge” toy car is sold alone or in a package of two, and may have the product number M1253 (for single cars) and K5925 (for cars sold as a set) printed on the packaging. The cars marked “Thailand” are not included in this recall.

The toy was sold at retail stores nationwide from May 2007 through August 2007 for between $7 and $20 (depending on whether they were sold individually or in sets).

In addition, Mattel has voluntarily expanded an early recall from November of 2006 to include the following:

Various Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets
Doggie Day Care™ play sets
Barbie and Tanner™ play sets
Batman™ and One Piece™ magnetic action figure sets

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Mattel.

For additional information, including a full list of recalled items, contact Mattel at (800) 916-4997 anytime or visit the firm’s Web site at

Monday, August 13, 2007

This Week's Video Game Releases

This is an exciting week for gamers everywhere! The latest installment in one of the most popular and successful video game franchises of all times, Madden NFL, arrives in stores this week for just about every game system out there. Another game making waves this week is High School Musical: Makin' the Cut for the DS. This karaoke game will have fans of the movie dancing and playing along with the movie’s songs while they create their own dance videos in order to win.

1914 Shells of Fury/PC
ATV/Monter Truck Mayhem/DS
Billy the Wizard: Rocket Broomstick Racing/Wii
Dungeons & Dragons Tactics/PSP
Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1/PS2
High School Musical: Makin' the Cut/DS
Heroes of Mana /DS
Luminous Arc/DS
Madden NFL 08/Xbox360, PSP, PS3, Wii, PS2, Mac, GC, PC, Xbox, DS
MetropolisMania 2/PS2
Operation: Vietnam/DS
Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon/DS
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3/PS2

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Orvis Company Recalls Children’s Toys Sold with Sleeping Bags

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with The Orvis Company, of Manchester, Vt., announced a voluntary recall of the Stuffed Plush Horse/Pillows and Fairy Dolls. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The Stuffed Horse is described as a plush brown horse/pillow was sold as an accessory with the purchase of a Horse Animal Sleeping Bag. The horse pillow has outstretched fore and back legs, a bushy black mane and tail and attaches to the sleeping bag with a hook/loop attachment on the belly of the horse. Stuffed horses with eyes directly embroidered on the plush fabric are not included in the recall.

The Fairy Doll toy was sold as an accessory with the purchase of a Unicorn Animal Sleeping Bag. The stuffed fairy doll has a sewn-on pompom nose, a pink satin dress with glitter netting as a ruffled collar, sleeves and dress apron. The doll attaches to the sleeping bag with a hook/loop attachment on the bag and between the doll’s wings. The fairy doll is one of three toys that attach to the sleeping bag. Also included are a large unicorn pillow and small flat unicorn. The unicorn attachments are not included in the recall.

Both items were sold through The Orvis Company mail-order catalogue and the firm’s Web site from September 2006 through December 2006 for about $70.

Consumers should take these toys away from young children immediately and contact the firm to obtain a refund or replacement horse and fairy doll. Consumers can continue to use the sleeping bags while waiting to receive replacement toys. For additional information, contact The Orvis Company toll-free at (866) 531-6199 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Shiny And New - Apple iMac

Steve Jobs unvelied the newly designed line of iMacs yesterday to oohs and ahhs from Mac-heads everywhere.

Visually the new iMacs are beautifull machines and continue the all-in-one design established by the original. The plastic casing and display of the old model have been replaced with an anodized aluminum frame and glass cover. The 17" model has been dropped from the line, which will now feature two 20" sizes and one 24" model, all of which have been slimmed down in width from their predecsors. Each iMac will support Firewire 800 and 400, three USB ports, Gigabit ethernet, audio in and out jacks and a DVI out.

Not to be outdone, the included keyboard has also undergone an extreeme makeover with the resulting super-slim model proving to be a worthy counterpart to the iMac itself. The keyboard, also in aluminum, features low-profile keys that provide a crisp, responsive feel plus special function keys for one-touch control of Mac features and two USB 2.0 ports.

Under the hood, these new iMacs will posses up to 2.4GHz Core 2 Extreme processor, 2.8 GHz on the 24 inch, up to 4GB memory, Radeon HD graphics, up to 1 TB HDD, 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.0

The three new iMacs, which range in price from $1200 to $1800, are available now.

J. McKinney

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2K Games Releases Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword

The latest and largest expansion pack for the popular game, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, is now in stores. Developed for the PC by Firaxis Games, Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, features the largest amount of expansion content in the history of the Civilization franchise.

Civilization IV, which was originally released in 2005, has sold over 1.5 million units making it a commercial hit and developing a huge following. Beyond the Sword, the second expansion pack focuses on the later time periods of the game - after the invention of gunpowder - and delivers 11 new scenarios to the core game. In addition, ten new civilizations, 16 new leaders, five new wonders, and a variety of new units will allow gamers to expand their civilizations and attempt to conquer the world.

This Just In - Lower Prices For Xbox 360 Announced

Microsoft confirmed the rumors that have been rumbling through the gaming community when they officially announced a $50 price drop for the Xbox 360.

The new reduced suggested retail price, which goes into effect tomorrow (August 8), will affect all versions of the 360. That drops the price of the standard 360 to $349.99. For those looking for the ultimate value and the freedom to customize their console as they see fit, Xbox 360 Core System now has an ERP of $279.99. The Xbox 360 Elite, equipped with a 120GB hard drive, will be priced at $449.99.

In making the announcement, Mitch Koch, corporate vice president, Global Retail Sales and Marketing Group, Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft said "The fact that we have been able to keep our launch price longer than any other console while retaining our leadership position demonstrates that consumers believe in the value of Xbox 360". While that may be the case, there is no denying that the new price could also be viewed as a response to Sony's July move, which reduced the price of its PS3 with a 60GB hard-disk drive to $499, and launched a new model with an 80GB hard-disk drive, for $599.

-J. McKinney

Monday, August 06, 2007

This Week's Video Game Releases

Get ready to get up off the couch and get down with Boogie. In stores this week, Boogie for the Wii is a unique music/rhythm-based game that will have you up dancing and singing. If singing and dancing isn't your thing, check out the return of Mega Man in three new spin-offs of the Mega Man Battle Network franchise. Each game features familiar RPG gameplay but with a new Mega Man character and storyline.

AnaCapri: The Dream/PC
Combat Mission: Shock Force Deluxe Collectors Edition/PC
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars/PSP
Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1/PS2
Harpoon Commanders Edition/PC
High School Musical: Makin' the Cut/DS
Mega Man Star Force: Dragon/DS
Mega Man Star Force: Leo/DS
Mega Man Star Force: Pegasus/DS
Racing 4 Pack/GBA
Undercover: Operation Wintersun/PC
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary/PSP

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fisher-Price Recalls Licensed Character Toys

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Fisher-Price Inc., of East Aurora, N.Y., announced a voluntary recall of Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and other children’s toys.

The recall involves various figures and toys that were manufactured between April 19, 2007 and July 6, 2007 and were sold alone or as part of sets. The model names and product numbers for the recalled toys, which are all marked with “Fisher-Price,” are listed below. The toys may have a date code between 109-7LF and 187-7LF marked on the product or packaging.

Recalled items were sold at retail stores nationwide from May 2007 through August 2007 for between $5 and $40. Thanks to the fast action of Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel, approximately 2/3 of the recalled items have been contained before arriving on store shelves and no injuries have been reported.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Fisher-Price. Consumers will need to return the product and will receive a voucher for a replacement toy of the consumer’s choice (up to the value of the returned product).

For additional information contact Fisher-Price at (800) 916-4498 anytime or visit the firm’s Web site at

Product List:

33662 Elmo Light Up Musical Pal
33664 Big Bird Light Up Musical Pal
39038 Elmo Tub Sub
87946 Elmo Keyboard
90609 Elmo Collectible
90612 Zoe Collectible
90614 Big Bird Collectible
93068 Elmo Boom Box
93307 Press N Go Elmo
93492 Cookie Saxophone
93615 Splash Tub Puzzle

B7554 Count To Beat Elmo
B7987 Elmo In The Giggle Box
B9620 Dora's Talking House
C6908 Dora, Backpack, Perrito Figure Pack
C6909 Diego Figure Pack
C6911 Boots, Tico Figure Pack
G5112 Sing With Elmo's Greatest Hits
H2943 Grow With Me Elmo Sprinkler
H3344 Birthday Dora
H5570 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Zoe, Bigbird)
H4628 Water Fun Tote
H8237 Blue 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H9124 Chef Dora
H9186 Giggle Grabber Ernie

J0338 Diego Talking Field Journal
J0344 Go Diego Go Deep Sea Rescue
J0346 Go Diego Go Talking Rescue 4 X 4
J5936 Giggle Grabber Chef Cookie Monster
J6537 Sesame Street Giggle Toolbelt
J6763 Royal Boots And Tico
J7983 Sesame Street Tub Pots & Pans
J9692 Dora's Talking Pony Place
K3414 Diego - Talking Gadget Belt
K3580 Fairytale Adventure Dora
K4140 Toucan Motorcycle Rescue

L3194 Surprise Inside Diego Eggs
L3488 Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack
L3507 Sesame Street - Super Boom Box
L5202 Birthday Dora
L8905 Pablo & Pals
M0352 Dora Figures Diego & Bear
M0527 Sesame Street Giggle Doodler
M2051 Lets Go Rescue Center 33663 Ernie Light Up Musical Pal
34658 Elmo Stacking Rings
39054 Sesame Street Shape Sorter
90267 Ernie Splashin' Fun Trike
90611 Cookie Collectible
90613 Ernie Collectible
90745 Construction Playset
93107 Action Fire Engine
93308 Rev & Go Cookie Monster
93493 Elmo's Guitar
93780 Music And Lights Phone

B7888 Shake, Giggle & Roll
B7989 Silly Parts Talking Elmo

C6910 Swiper Figure Pack
G3825 Dora Talking Vamonos Van
G9717 Giggle Doodler
H3343 Cousin Daisy
H5569 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Cookie, Ernie)
H4187 Dora Figures In Tube
H8236 Dora 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H8238 Sponge Bob 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H9125 Bedtime Dora
H9188 Giggle Grabber Oscar The Grouch

J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue
J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue
J5935 Giggle Grabber Soccer Elmo

J6762 Queen Mami
J6765 Prince Diego
J9518 Sesame Street Giggle Drill
K0617 Twins Nursery
K3571 Go Diego Go Mobile Rescue Unit
K4139 Go Diego Go Dinosaur Rescue
L0305 Dora Figure

L3215 Sesame Street Elmo Jack-In-The-Box

L5813 Diego Tub Trike
M0351 Dora Figures Dora & Kitty
M0524 Go Diego Go Talking Gadget
M0732 Dora's Talking House
M2052 Fairytale Castle